Adventures On Union Pacific’s Peoria Subdivision (and Beyond)

I woke up before sunrise on Memorial Day and couldn’t get back to sleep. So after deciding it vain to try any longer, I got dressed and headed up to BNSF’s Chillicothe Subdivision to see if the railroad would be busy on a federal holiday.

I arrived to find another railfan sitting trackside. During  a brief chat with him, I learned that a merchandise train had rolled south on the nearby Union Pacific about 30 minutes earlier (about 8:00 o’clock). From his description I concluded this was MPRAS (Manifest, PRoviso IL to Alton & Southern), a daily train which I’d seen only two days earlier. I decided to intercept it before it reached South Pekin.

And I just made it. The train was approaching Chester L Road when I arrived. I shot a couple of photos there and also at South Pekin where it stopped for a crew change. I waited for the outbound departure, which occurred about 11:00.

I shot video of the 51-car train at the first road crossing south of the Taloma Farmers Grain Co. Allen Station elevator then found a country crossing just north of Sweetwater where I snapped a still photo showing less-than-ideal track conditions and a brief video.

Next I shot the train at Barr before it entered shortline Illinois & Midland Railroad’s mainline at “I&M Jct.” The Union Pacific abandoned the former Chicago & North Western south of here in 1998, so trains now use the IMRR to reach UP’s Springfield Subdivision at Ridgely. Next I shot video of MPRAS at Andrews Siding on  the IMRR.

I found a spot in downtown Springfield for more video, which would be my last. I failed in my attempt to catch the train at Hazel Dell before it raced out of town.

I learned a lot Monday. Union Pacific has significantly increased train frequency on this line, making the busiest in years. Besides MPRAS and its counterpart, MASPR, up to several loaded and empty unit frac sand trains ply this route daily (MPRAS encountered empties at South Pekin and Barr on Monday, and a loaded southbound left South Pekin in late afternoon). Not long ago, it seemed the only trains running between Crescent Jct. (with IMRR just southwest of Pekin) and Barr were grain trains and the occasional work train.

– David P. Jordan

Gritty Industrial Railroading Part VII

I debated whether to place this in with my “Gritty Industrial Railroading” series or create a stand alone post about my Saturday encounter with Canadian National Railway’s Peoria Local. The former won out because the train switched Amerhart Ltd’s Pekin distribution center on the way out of town.

The encounter was exciting and purely by chance. I had been sitting along BNSF’s Chillicothe Subdivision about midday Saturday when a southbound Union Pacific merchandise train appeared (see previous post). I gave chase (in order to get some video and still photos) to South Pekin where about 1:30pm or so, I happened to hear radio chatter from the CN local crew trying to contact the Tazewell & Peoria Railroad (TZPR) dispatcher.

I knew this meant the CN local (officially called L56491) was sitting at Pekin, so I went there immediately and found CN SD75I No. 5697 and an 11-car train. It took awhile to get the TZPR dispatcher to reply. Finally, the CN local was enroute to East Peoria.

The encounter was a bit unusual for the fact that this train goes on duty after 5:00pm and normally reaches Pekin and East Peoria at well after dark. Yet Saturday’s crew was on duty at 10:00am. I suspect this being the Memorial Day holiday weekend might have caused a schedule shuffle.

Anyway, I waited for the train to drop its inbound train at East Peoria, couple onto its outbound and depart, which it did around 4:00pm. The southbound train had 19 cars. I decided it best to keep with the train until it left Pekin for the chance it would do some local work at Riverway Business Park. I was rewarded for my decision when the train stopped short of the Amerhart switch to pull an empty boxcar. As you can see, they had to pull a loaded centerbeam flat car as well (and re-spot it) to get to the empty boxcar.

I shot the final scene at Delavan. It is hard to keep up with CN trains going 40mph on a track segment with no parallel roads. So after checking out Emden and Hartsburg for changes (there weren’t any) I bid adieu and headed for home.

– David P. Jordan

More Saturday Railroad Action

Last Saturday morning (May 17), I happened to see Union Pacific train MASPR (Manifest, Alton & Southern to Proviso IL) near Edelstein. See here for post and embedded video.

Saturday, May 24, I happened to see MASPR’s counterpart, MPRAS, also at Edelstein. I shot video (see above) of the 108-car train as it rolled by the Akron Services grain elevator/fertilizer storage plant north of Dunlap.

Love those mixed freights!

– David P. Jordan

RS-1325 Back In Service!

IMRR052314B - Copy

Illinois & Midland Railroad RS-1325 No. 30, one of only two examples built (No. 31 being the other), is back in operation.

I don’t know for how long, but this unit was involved in a derailment and rollover accident on Thursday evening, March 27. The unit suffered minor damage, and was expected to be repaired.

Friday evening, I saw No. 30 switching tank cars on the same industry spur (Crystal Lake, just southwest of Pekin) on which it had the accident. It has been almost two months, and I don’t know how long the unit has been in service since repairs were made. Probably a month or more. Regardless, it was good to see it running again.

– David P. Jordan

New KJRY Bridge Opens!

IMG_7214 - CopyClassic FP9’s 1750 and 1752 lead 28 covered hoppers across new Spoon River Bridge on May 21, 2014. Railroad personnel and railfans were present.

The Keokuk Junction Railway is back in business.

Eight months after its Keokuk – East Peoria route was severed by the destruction of a bridge spanning the Spoon River just east of Seville, a new bridge is complete and the first train rolled across it about noon, Wednesday.

Hopefully, the two major shippers which use this route – Roquette America and Amsted Rail’s Griffin Wheel Division, both in Keokuk – will immediately shift traffic back to the KJRY.

A number of railroad personnel were on hand, as were several railfans. The Asian carp population was believed to have boycotted the event, however. See video Below.

– David P. Jordan

Frac Sand Trains Abound!

Union Pacific is running a lot of Texas-bound unit frac sand trains on its Peoria Subdivision.

I caught an empty, northbound train for the first time Sunday afternoon, May 18. They’re coming out of Wisconsin. Here is video of the 120-car train as it rolls near Camp Grove.

– David P. Jordan

Pantagraph Editorial Recognizes CIRA vs. PIA Rivalry

The Pantagraph‘s Steve Vogel wrote an editorial about Central Illinois Regional Airport’s recent success grabbing FedEx from Peoria. He suggests UPS should also make the move. Is the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Peoria paying attention?

Although Vogel’s writeup is a decent look into the rivalry with Peoria International Airport, he still manages one ignorant jab.

In the mid-’90s, “Bloomington-Normal Airport” was rechristened “Central Illinois Regional Airport.” Peoria then decided “Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport” better described that facility. Never mind it has no international flights.

Um…the “international” title reflects the presence of a U. S. Customs facility for air cargo. PIA has hosted the world’s largest aircraft (Antonov Airlines’ AN-225, Volga-Dnepr’s AN-124, etc.) for commercial intercontinental cargo flights. It has even hosted international charters, the first of which paid visit in 1955 (Trans Canada Airlines DC-4’s).

See if CIRA can top that…

– David P. Jordan

Saturday Railroad Action

On Saturday I did happen upon Union Pacific and Iowa Interstate trains during the morning and evening, respectively. First, the UP train:

In recent months, Union Pacific has been running daily a pair of manifest trains on its Peoria Subdivision. Carrying symbols MASPR and MPRAS, these link Proviso Yard (near Chicago) with the big Alton & Southern yard near East St. Louis. Usually, these trains’ appearance on the Peoria Sub is due to capacity issues on the UP’s primary Chicago-St. Louis/Texas route that runs via Yard Center, Woodland Jct., Villa Grove and Pana. Above, an 80-car MASPR is shown from W. County Line Road, just south of Speer, Illinois. Train had four locomotives, a switcher (being moved to a new home) and 80 cars.

You wouldn’t know it by the two locomotives up front but this is an Iowa Interstate train, SIPE to be exact. It runs about three times a week from Silvis (near the Quad Cities) to Peoria (East Peoria, actually). Power probably came off Norfolk Southern’s Knoxville, TN to Blue Island, IL train 115 and is being turned back to Norfolk Southern at Peoria. Usually, it is a unit ethanol train bound for interchange with the NS, though a block of mixed freight may be on the head end. But not Saturday, May 17. The 84-car train, shown at San Koty (along Rt. 29), was all mixed freight, though obviously dominated by ADM feed pellet traffic.

– David P. Jordan